Prashant Bhushan’s Attackers Are Heirs of Godse, Not Bhagat Singh

Kavita Krishnan

“He break (sic) my nation, I break his head” – this was the proud claim (on facebook) of one of the men who attacked Prashant Bhushan.
One is irresistibly reminded of another man many decades ago, who felt he had the right to take the life of another man whom he accused of having ‘broken his nation.’ Nathuram Godse justified the assassination of Gandhi saying he held Gandhi responsible for Partition.    
One of Prashant Bhushan’s attackers has named his organization after Bhagat Singh (Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena – ‘Bhagat Singh Revolution Army’). But his actions and ideology mark him as kindred, not of Bhagat Singh but of Godse. Bhagat Singh’s method of settling his political differences with Gandhi was very different from Godse’s.
Sangh’s ‘Patriotism’ – and Bhagat Singh’s 
Hindutva has a long history of cloaking its politics in a guise of patriotism. For Bhagat Singh, patriotism meant resistance to imperialism and colonialism. For the Hindutva ideologues – Savarkar, Golwalkar, Hegdewar – ‘patriotism’ had no anti-imperialist content whatsoever. It is well documented that Savarkar begged pardon of, and later collaborated with the colonial rulers. The Sangh Parivar had no history of resistance of the British rule. What Golwalkar and Hegdewar meant by patriotism was hatred and violence against religious minorities.
As a child, a visit to Jallianwala Bagh - site of brutal colonial massacre - had a powerful impact on Bhagat Singh. How would Bhagat Singh respond if he had lived to see the mass graves where thousands of victims of custodial killings lie buried in Kashmir? Bhagat Singh knew that if India gained independence by the Congress path, he and his comrades would continue to be enemies in the eyes of the bhure angrez just as much as they had been for the gore angrez. The Bhagat Singh who read Lenin in his final months in jail before his execution would have known that military jackboots can never achieve unity, any less than rape can be the basis for marriage. To paint Bhagat Singh as a defender of state repression and national chauvinism is an insult to the memory of the revolutionary. The atheist and staunch secularist Bhagat Singh had consistently rejected and opposed the politics of Hindu nationalism. If the British hadn’t hanged him, surely the likes of Godse would have found it necessary to kill him too!
Foot-soldiers of Fascism
After the assassination of Gandhi, the RSS sought to distance itself from Godse. Yes, he was once an RSS member, they admitted – but, they claimed, he had left the organization. The pattern is familiar. Tejinder Bagga, one of Prashant Bhushan’s attackers, too admits that he was once in the Sangh-BJP fold, but claims he broke away some time ago. Earlier, the RSS-BJP had also denied links with Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, the Malegaon blast accused. Inconvenient photographs of Pragya Thakur sharing the stage with BJP bigwigs surfaced, however. Likewise, a file photograph of Advani warmly grasping Bagga’s hands has also come to light. Fascist politics requires foot-soldiers: the fact is that the Sangh Parivar and BJP are all too happy to let their foot-soldiers like Nathuram, Pragya, Bagga or Dara Singh do their dirty work.
After Dara Singh killed Staines, Vajpayee deplored the killing – but called for a ‘national debate’ on conversion. Rather in the same style, the BJP today is saying the attack on Bhushan was wrong – but then suggests that his views on Kashmir have no right to be aired on Indian soil. After the Sri Ram Sene’s attack on women in a pub, Nirmala Venkatesh, a member of the NCW, while maintaining that the violence was wrong, claimed the attackers were provoked by the women’s revealing clothes. The BJP kept maintaining a posture of deploring the pub attack – but Ms. Venkatesh, after being sacked from the NCW, promptly joined the BJP! The ideological laboratories of the Sangh Parivar produce the Nathurams, Baggas, Pragyas and the Daras. The actions of the latter, in turn, help to generate a political climate favourable for the BJP’s politics. A division of labour is maintained – while the ideological and political familial ties remain unbreakable.         
The Norway terrorist’s rants on the internet had been ignored as part of an irrelevant ‘lunatic fringe’ till he perpetrated his horrific massacre. It was only after the massacre that people began to notice the ideological kinship between his discourse (targeting immigrants and Islam in Europe) and that of mainstream right-wing politicians in Europe. The latter, while claiming to deplore the massacre, used the massacre to boost their politics, claiming that multiculturalism would provoke more such massacres. It’s no coincidence that the Norway terrorist’s manifesto devoted several admiring pages to the Sangh Parivar (mainly for their violence against Muslims). Groups like Abhinav Bharat or Ram Sene should not be dismissed as a lunatic fringe. They are spawned by the political culture of the Sangh Parivar – and India can ignore the dangers posed by that political culture only at its own peril. 
Digvijay Singh Echoes the Shiv Sena 
The Congress’ capitulation to the Hindutva henchmen has been seen time and again. Be it the demolition of Babri Masjid or death threats to MF Husain, Congress Governments failed dismally to defend them from the intimidation and violence by the saffron brigades. The Prashant Bhushan episode again exposes the opportunist character of the Congress when it comes to taking on saffron goons.
Congress spokesperson Digvijay Singh has been writing letters to Anna about the latter’s alleged RSS links. After the attack on Prashant, Digvijay wrote yet another missive to Anna. Digvijay, of course, like almost everyone else, claimed he deplored the physical attack. But then he asked Anna if it was “proper” for him to associate closely with Prashant Bhushan given the latter’s views on “basic issues of the country’s unity and integrity.” Bravo Digvijayji! According to the Congress model of secularism and democracy that you claim to represent, the saffron goons who beat up Prashant Bhushan – and who epitomize divisive and hate-mongering politics – are defenders of ‘unity and integrity’! While Prashant Bhushan – uncompromising voice against communal violence, intrepid defender of democratic rights, at the forefront of the battles in court and street against corruption – is a threat to ‘unity and integrity’, whose associates should be ashamed! It is the Sangh’s well-known tactic to silence and outlaw any dissenting views – such as those relating to state repression and self-determination in Kashmir – by branding it a threat to ‘unity and integrity.’ Clearly, Digvijay and the Congress have no qualms about borrowing an arrow from the Sangh and Shiv Sena quiver to target Prashant Bhushan, whose anti-corruption activism has become the bane of the ruling party.
Uneasy Anna 
The attack on Prashant Bhushan has also posed a problem for Anna Hazare. The tricolour served to associate the Anna brand with an easy, seamless, one-dimensional nationalism. But even during Anna’s fast, Irom’s reply to a letter from Team Anna tacitly drew attention to the limits of that kind of nationalism. Now, Prashant Bhushan’s views on state repression and AFSPA, and self-determination in Kashmir in particular, pose complicated questions that the Anna team would rather avoid. Anna and India Against Corruption did deplore the attack. While distancing themselves from Prashant Bhushan’s Kashmir remarks, they did maintain that Prashant Bhushan had every right to air his own political views.
But what is painfully clear is that the leaders of such a huge recent movement found themselves unable to muster courage to hold even a single protest against a physical attack on one of their most prominent Team members. Is this not strange? It is not that Anna’s supporters all over the country rose up in support of Bagga’s attack. In fact, supporters turned up in their Anna caps the very next morning in the court where the attackers were to be produced. They raised slogans supporting Bhushan – and were beaten up for this by a small crowd of the attackers’ supporters – in full view of the police who did nothing. But Anna and the rest of the Team did not protest these fascist attacks. The arrows aimed by Shiv Sena and Digvijay Singh seem to have caught Team Anna on its Achilles Heel. One of the factors which helped Anna capture the national imagination was resistance to the UPA Government’s attacks on democratic rights. But why is the response of ‘Team Anna’ not equally, consistently bold against the Sangh Parivar’s physical attack on democratic rights of one of their own Team members?  
An Attack – And An Opportunity 
The attack on Prashant Bhushan is a heinous one. But every such attack also presents an opportunity. An opportunity to boldly expand the democratic space by challenging the moral and political premise of the attackers. We need to turn the tables on the fascists by exposing the hollowness and falsity of their ‘nationalist’ posturing – and in doing so we also need to expand the space for dissenting views, views challenging the common-sense on ‘unity’, ‘patriotism’, and so on.

The jailing of Binayak Sen – another crime against democracy – eventually did much to expose and discredit the politics of Operation Greenhunt, and shine a light into the area of darkness that is Chhattisgarh. This sorry episode, too, can perhaps help us to expose the communal fascists, and shine some light on the suffering and struggles of people in another area kept dark from us - Kashmir.